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cannabis for anxiety

Cannabis For Anxiety: How One Quebec Resident Finds Relief In Growing His Own Medicine

Meet Étienne. The unassuming Trois-Rivières resident has been growing cannabis for anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic in the apartment he shares with his wife and cats. If today he looks relaxed and at ease, it has not always been this way. Over Zoom, as he dabs into a giant transparent pipe of THC concentrates next to one of his beloved plants, we chat about his mental health journey, and how starting his home garden has been therapeutic. 

Cannabis Health: When did you start smoking cannabis for anxiety?

Étienne: When it became legal in 2018. My partner smoked it to help her manage muscular problems and to relax. So I told myself, “eh, why not?” She was the one who smoked more at the beginning, but then I became the one who smoked more. 

CH: How has smoking cannabis helped you with your health issues?

E: I’m a very anxious person, so cannabis helps take the edge off. And it worked, so I just kept going. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in 2015. Before I started smoking cannabis for anxiety, I took benzodiazepines. They worked too, but I hated how they made me feel. It was a bit like being drunk, but without a headache and without drinking. I didn’t take them recreationally—it was just to help me calm down.

They easily made me feel tired for four to six hours at a time. I had to learn to manage my dose, which was challenging. Either I took too little for them to have any effect, or I took too much, which did make me calm down, but also made me extremely tired and unmotivated. Benzodiazepines are extremely useful in the short term, but long term, they can be annoying. 

Things improved greatly when I started smoking THC in 2018. Before that, when I would return home after work, I would be extremely stressed. Even my mother-in-law saw how anxious I was every time she would visit. When I started smoking, she noticed I was a lot more relaxed.

All the unpleasant side effects I had from benzodiazepines disappeared. The effects from smoking last from one hour to 90 minutes, which is a bit short. Now, I have been trying to find plants with CBD in them, which helps me feel the effects for longer periods of time. I am trying to experiment with CBD smoking schedules to find one that works, so I don’t have to smoke THC so often.  

Cannabis for anxiety
Just one of Étienne’s plants, which he grows in his apartment. He uses his home-grown cannabis for anxiety.

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CH: You are permitted to grow cannabis for medical purposes. Was it difficult for you to obtain?

E: No. In Quebec, where I live, doctors don’t prescribe cannabis because they don’t know how. So I called a private clinic in Ontario and we set up a Zoom appointment. They asked me a few simple questions and gave me a prescription of 10 grams a day. The prescriptions I get at my pharmacy is two grams a day, but the clinic allotted 10 because I make concentrates that require more flower. The clinic gave me a high plant limit because it is very easy to go over your  limit if, like me, you make concentrates.

The clinic issued me a prescription that I sent to Health Canada, who sent me my growing license two weeks later. Afterwards, they gave me the address of a pharmacy where I could go in case of emergencies. The product selection is the same as what’s available in the legal weed market, so I don’t have much to buy. 

CH: When you started your garden in your apartment, what positive effects did you notice in your health?

E: My wife tells me I talk to my plants just like I talk to my cats. When my plants are doing well, I feel great. Going to see my plants once or twice per day makes me feel like I have a relationship with them. I treat my plants like I treat my cats: I give them love, and they reward me by giving me the joy of seeing them grow healthy. It’s very obvious when they are happy, and it’s beautiful to see. 

Having a routine of working on my cannabis plants every morning and checking up on them every lunchtime really helps my anxiety. Before, I had a routine with my job, but I got laid off because of the pandemic. I lost the structure I had in my life for several months until I started my garden. Gardening gave me a reason to get up early in the morning to go check on my plants. I found it to be a lot of fun, so I continued. When I see my plants doing well, I feel very accomplished.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.